|The Evolution of the BlackBerry® at Bell Mobility
Cellular communications have come a long way since their inception. The first appearance of cellular communication was in the original Star Trek series. Cellular communication eventually moved from the TV screen and into our pockets. As cell phones evolved into smart phones, Canadian companies, such as Waterloo, Ontario's RIM® and their BlackBerry, were behind many of the innovations. Let’s have a look at how RIM's BlackBerry evolved at Bell.
BlackBerry 850 and 857
If you were part of the generation who grew up when pagers where popular, you’ll remember them attached to the belts and pockets of many businessmen, drug dealers, teenagers, and teachers. RIM first tested the waters at Bell Mobility with two sets of pagers, the RIM 850 and the RIM 857.
RIM 850: The RIM 850 was first introduced to the business world by Bell on December 20, 1999. The RIM 850 was a Y2K compliance gift before the feared turn-of-the-millennium technology meltdown. This device was handheld. It came with a paging feature and was 6.4 x 8.9 x 2.4 cm (L x W x D) in size. It also had wireless email, corporate data access, an organizer, wireless Internet*
, and a week-long battery life. The available memory was 4 MB of flash memory, 512 KB of SRAM, a 32-bit processor, and an 800-MHz DataTAC network. Yeah, you’ve read right; it’s KB, as in KILObytes. And the display was primitive and small, with no color and a maximum of eight lines.
RIM 857: The RIM 857, a later version of the RIM 850, was almost identical to its predecessor except for important enhancements that included an upgrade in memory to 8 MB of flash memory and 1 MB SRAM. The size grew a bit, too, with dimensions of 11.7 x 7.85 x 1.8 cm (L x W x D). This super pager of its time became available in October, 2000. The display evolved from eight lines to 20 lines, but still lacked color.
Both the RIM 850 and 857 were powered by one AA alkaline battery. The 850 was a bit lighter than the 857, at 133 g compared to 136 g. Both used a full QWERTY keyboard and supported the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, version 1.6.
The BlackBerry 6750, first launched on February 19, 2003, was the first BlackBerry phone at Bell Mobility. This device was similar to the RIM 857 and 850 but had cell phone capabilities. It had all the fabulous features of the handheld devices, such as wireless email, an organizer, corporate data access, and wireless Internet, but it also had a phone and SMS messaging. These features, pretty basic now, were a “big wow” back then. The rechargeable and removable lithium battery gave owners 180 minutes of talk time with up to eight days of standby. The BlackBerry 6750 operated on Bell's two existing networks: the dual-band single mode 800/1900 MHz CDMA2000® 1X and the cdmaOneTM networks. The memory got better with 10 MB of flash and the phone retained the essential QWERTY keyboard.
The size of the device grew, too; the new BlackBerry weighed in at 143 g and was 12.1 x 7.7 x 1.8 cm (L x W x D) in size. The display evolved to a high-contrast monochrome screen. The supported BlackBerry Enterprise Server was version 2.1 or higher for Microsoft® Exchange and version 2.0 with Windows® Service Pack 2 or higher for Lotus Domino.
The BlackBerry 7250 was Bell Mobility's fourth RIM device. The 7250 had the same dimensions as the 6750 and weighed only 1 g less. Like the 6750, the 7250 had all the core BlackBerry features, such as wireless email, an organizer, corporate data access, wireless Internet, the phone, and SMS, but was first device to offer the BlackBerry Messenger. The 7250 was also Bell’s first BlackBerry to carry a color display—with a 240 x 240 resolution supporting over 65,000 colors. The talk time got better, with 198 minutes claimed. The standby stayed at eight days. The memory was upgraded to 14 MB of flash. The network coverage was the same as the 6750 and supported the same BlackBerry Enterprise Server, but version 4.0 or higher was added for Novell® GroupWise®.
The BlackBerry 7250 was first launched by Bell on February 16, 2005. The launch of the 7250 was a huge leap forward in the evolution of smart phones and Bell took the credit for being the first in Canada to release this phone. The 7250 had all the bells and whistles of the previous BlackBerrys but was armed with real firepower, with new features such as Bluetooth®, GPS, a wireless calendar, more flash memory—a total of 32 MB—and EV-DO capability. With the EV-DO network access, the 7250 became Canada's first smart phone with high-speed data.
Next, RIM started to learn how to make technological advances with a smaller device. The dimensions of the 7250 were 11.4 x 7.4 x 2.3 cm (L x W x D) with a weight of 139 g. Unlike the previous BlackBerrys, this phone is not yet a vintage phone and is still used by many, primarily in large corporate environments. At the time of its launch, the 7250 was Bell Mobility's most expensive phone. However, now you can get a used or refurbished version for a very reasonable price. This was also the first BlackBerry on the Bell network that was hearing aid compatible.
Bell released the BlackBerry 7130e on Halloween day, 2005. This BlackBerry lost its wide look as RIM came out with a new sleek style and a noticeably smaller waistline—11.4 x 5.6 x 2.3 cm (L x W x D). This phone was a little lighter, as well, weighing 133 g compared to the 7250’s 139 g. The display continued to improve, with changeable fonts and backlighting. SureType® technology was added to this phone for data input, making the 7130e Bell's first non-QWERTY device. This was a change that Crackberry
enthusiasts weren’t prepared for, but RIM had their eyes on a different type of user when developing this device.
The 7130e was different from the 7250 in that the popular BlackBerry Messenger was excluded and there was a lack of tethered modem capability.
On the plus side, there was a 64 MB upgrade from the 32 MB of the 7250. Polyphonic/Midi ringtones were also a feature of this phone.
The launch of the BlackBerry 7130e was a very important step for RIM as they began considering devices that appealed to non-business users. The 7130e clearly showed RIM's intention to build phones for regular cell phone (consumer) users; the 7130e became the predecessor of the PearlTM.
RIM returned to their strength with the release of the BlackBerry 8703e, returning the full QWERTY keyboard loved by RIM's core business users. The dimensions of this Crackberry
cell phone are 11.0 x 6.95 x 1.95 cm (L x W x D) and a weight of 135 g. With a larger screen and better resolution than the 7250, the 8703e provides a greater viewing experience compared to previous full-keyboard models. The available features include wireless email, an organizer, a browser, corporate data access, SMS, MMS, and GPS.
BlackBerry 8830 World Edition
Released on April 25, 2007, this BlackBerry was lighter yet at 132 g and was much thinner, with dimensions of 14.4 x 6.6 x 1.4 (L x W x D). RIM introduced many firsts with the 8830 World Edition, including the MicroSDTM memory card slot. In addition, the functional track wheel was replaced with an even more functional multidirectional trackball.
More personalized notification became available with the addition of MP3 ringtones. To provide more messaging capability, MMS was also added. Bluetooth is available for conversation, but listening to music is restricted to a wired headset. The 8830 is also the phone that introduced Bell users to BlackBerry Maps.
In addition, the BlackBerry 8830 is the first BlackBerry phone at Bell to be both CDMA and GSM capable. This allowed users to use their phone more globally, in countries in which GSM networks are available. Talk time on the GSM is an impressive 300 minutes, with 16 days of standby time—a significant improvement compared to earlier Bell BlackBerry versions that offered 220 minutes and 9 days of standby. With the inclusion of multimedia and the ability to download and play movies, the memory card for external storage was a necessary addition to the 8830.
BlackBerry Pearl 8130
The Pearl smart phone was released at Bell on February 11, 2007. The Pearl offered the same standard features of the 8830 World Edition, such as wireless email, an organizer, a browser, a media player, corporate data access, MMS, SMS, and GPS. An addition welcomed by music fans, however, is the 3.5-mm stereo headphone jack, which greatly improves the music experience. Even more important was the addition of a digital camera (2.0 megapixels).
Talk time didn't improve much with this phone—222 minutes with 9 days of standby—and the phone operates on Bell's dual-band 800/1900 MHz CDMA2000 1X Ev-DO networks. It has a tethered modem and keeps the BlackBerry reputation as a messaging and email powerhouse. Warning:
For BlackBerry fans who cringed at the SureType keyboard on the 7130e, it made its return with Pearl.
With the addition of appealing features, however, the Pearl helped RIM complete the transformation of BlackBerry’s market from the business-essential clients targeted by RIM since its inception to the much larger consumer market. Even so, the Pearl 8130 phone remains a strong option for businesses.
BlackBerry Curve 8330
The Curve was released in May, 2008. The Curve is 10.7 x 6.2 x 1.6 cm (L x W x D) in size and weighs a light 114 g, continuing the trend toward thinner and lighter phones. The QWERTY keyboard comes back returns to the Curve, to the delight of many users. Talk time, on the same wireless networks as the Pearl, is an impressive 260 minutes with a whopping 11 days of standby. The flash memory also gets a big boost, to 96 MB.
BlackBerry Storm 9530
Finally, the latest BlackBerry offered by Bell is the highly marketed and much-hyped Storm. All efforts by BlackBerry and Bell to promote this phone have paid off, as stock quickly ran out after the first launch in December, 2008. With this phone, BlackBerry decided to gamble, turning away from the success of the navigation wheel and introducing the new SurePressTM touch technology. This phone is BlackBerry’s long-awaited introduction to the world of touch phone smart phones, until now dominated by Apple's iPhone. Perhaps a future BlackBerry model will offer a hybrid of the SurePress technology, a QWERTY keyboard, and BlackBerry’s popular navigation wheel.
The dimensions of the Storm, BlackBerry’s first touch phone, are 112.5 x 62.2 x 13.95 mm, with a weight of 155 g. The Storm is quite a bit heavier than the Curve, but the touch screen and an upgraded 32-megapixel digital camera with flash makes up for the added weight. And actually, the weight along with the compact dimensions gives the Storm a very sturdy feeling in the hand.
The memory got the largest upgrade yet, to a useful 128 MB of flash and 1 GB of onboard memory, with a microSD memory card slot for those needing more. Talk time is also significantly increased, to 330 minutes with 15 days of standby. With all of these upgrades, the loss of the navigation wheel may seem trivial in the face of the Superman-like powers this phone offers its users.
The Gist of It
BlackBerry and Bell have had a long history together. The evolution of the BlackBerry over time has shown that RIM has listened to their customers’ requests for a feature-rich device, while Bell focused on providing North America's fastest data network to their users. Both companies have kept at least one step ahead of demand. The result? Increasing BlackBerry sales for Bell.